Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 27 August

Musings from beyond the boundary – cricketing thoughts through the eyes of Trevor Auger, an Auckland Cricket Society and Supporters Club Member.

Good this week to see the West Indies fighting back in the Second Test against England, after their capitulation last weekend. For the first time in England since 2004 they have already secured a healthy first innings lead, built on a 246 run partnership between the classy young pair of 24-year-old Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope, who is just 23.

Brathwaite scored his first test century against New Zealand at Port of Spain in 2014 and he now has five three-figure innings under his belt, with a best of 212. Hope has an excellent ODI record (a format in which he also keeps wicket) but has made a slower start to his test career, with 90 against Pakistan in Barbados earlier this year his only score beyond 50 until his maiden test century in this match. Both batsmen hail from Barbados, more exciting talent from this remarkable Caribbean finishing school for test cricketers.

Elsewhere in England, the semi-finalists in the Natwest T20 Blast have been found, and Colin de Grandhomme played a crucial part in ensuring that his Warwickshire side, the Birmingham Bears, are still a big chance for the title.

Their quarter-final opponents, Surrey, scored a threatening 204/5, with Jeetan Patel picking up top-scorer Jason Roy, lbw for 74. In reply, Warwickshire were 143/4 at the end of the 13th over when de Grandhomme joined his captain Grant Elliott and the New Zealand pair added an unbeaten 64 runs to see their team to victory. Elliott, who controversially survived a disallowed ‘catch’ at square leg, finished on 59 and de Grandhomme’s contribution was a 22-ball 39.

The only other New Zealander in the semi-finals will be Ish Sodhi, who didn’t manage a wicket as his Nottinghamshire side beat Somerset. In the other two quarter-finals, Derbyshire, with Matt Henry, were trounced by Hampshire, while Leicestershire went down by 9 wickets to Glamorgan.

That was in spite of another blistering start from Luke Ronchi who top-scored with 28 from 18 balls, succumbing with the total on 49/2 in the fifth over. Unfortunately it was all downhill for Leicestershire from there.

It was not all bad news for Ronchi as he was called up to the CPL to take Martin Guptill’s place at the Guyana Amazon Warriors, following the Aucklander’s early return home last week.

Unfortunately for Guptill, his departure came as his team found winning form after a slow start to the competition, beating both the Barbados Tridents and the St Lucia Stars. The match against the Tridents saw Kane Williamson scoring 47 in a 107-run opening partnership with Dwayne Smith who ended up with a round 100 off 70 balls. However Guptill’s 81-run 3rd wicket partnership with Chadwick Walton was good enough to set his side comfortably on the path to victory.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Glenn Phillips continued his promising start with the Jamaica Tallawahs, and in four matches his lowest score is the 21 (including two sixes) which he managed against the St Lucia Stars.

Most remarkable performance of the week though went to the Trinidad and Tobago Knight Riders. After the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots had had scored 162/3, courtesy of 93 from Chris Gayle, off just 47 balls and including 8 sixes, the weather intervened and the Knight Riders were set a chase of 86 off 6 overs.

They reached their target with 4 balls to spare thanks to a 54 run blitz in just 13 balls from Brendon McCullum and Darren Bravo. The pair hit 8 sixes in their partnership, adding to the one McCullum had acquired earlier in his 14-ball innings of 40 not out.

Unfortunately on this occasion Colin Munro managed just a single, but it was his dismissal that brought Bravo to the crease and set the fireworks alight.

Last week we mentioned that Suzie Bates had scored the first century in England’s T20 Kia Super League. Only days later, Rachel Priest, her White Ferns opening partner, scored the second, as her Western Storm picked up a 10-wicket win over the Yorkshire Diamonds. Priest finished with an unbeaten 106 off 65 balls, with 14 fours and three sixes, as her team stormed to victory with three overs up their sleeves.

It was a good week for Priest as she also picked up a 26-ball 52 against the Lancashire Thunder, this time with seven boundaries as well as another three sixes. In a good game for the Kiwi contingent, Amy Satterthwaite had scored 44 in a losing cause for the Lancashire side, for whom Lea Tahuhu picked up a handy 1/17 from her three overs.

Back home there was the disconcerting news from David White that a truncated Plunket Shield may be on the cards for the 2018/19 season. Following a summer with four international touring teams and yet just the four test matches, this will be a concern to enthusiasts of red-ball cricket.

Many of us will still remember the excitement of the 1975-76 season and the first expansion of the single round Plunket Shield competition. Was it just coincidence that this change came at the beginning of a new era of success for New Zealand on the international stage? Similarly, is it just chance that the consistent returns at test level last season from new caps Jeet Raval and Colin de Grandhomme came on the back of a wealth of first class experience garnered over many years of participation in the first class game?

The dilemma for New Zealand Cricket is a clear one, however.  No matter how important first class cricket may be to the fabric of our game, and no matter how much interest it may generate in the background, it is a very expensive exercise which does not directly generate revenue. As costs escalate year on year, sports administrators, like businessmen in any field, are compelled to balance benefits against investment and make difficult decisions accordingly. This is one of those very tough calls.

Spare a thought for David White and his team on this one – they are on a hiding to nothing.